From the April 2011 Conservationist
A. F. Tait
Exhibit at Adirondack Museum sheds light on iconic Adirondack artist
A photo of the artist A. F. Tait, taken in
July 1893. (Photo: Smithsonian Institution,
Archives of American Art)
Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (1819-1905) was the quintessential image-maker of Adirondack sport. An ardent sportsman and lover of the outdoors, Tait lived in the Adirondack region for extended periods of time near Chateaugay, Raquette and Long Lakes. Like many of his fellow artists in the 1850s and '60s, Tait came to the Adirondacks to hunt and fish, explore nature, and to hone his skills at transcribing and interpreting the wilderness around them. In most of these artists' works, people and their activities present in the scene are dwarfed by their natural surroundings. Tait is the exception; in his art, sportsmen share equal billing with the flora and fauna in their sylvan settings. But nature is the underlying, if not primary, subject. The natural grandeur of the American land-particularly the Adirondacks-was taking center stage in American art, and Tait's Adirondack works define the region as a paradise for anglers and hunters.
A Buck: Foggy Morning," 1879 Oil on
Tait immigrated to America from England in 1850 and established himself as a painter. He discovered the Adirondacks in 1852, and spent the next thirty years painting the woods, waters, and people he found there. His images were among the best-known in nineteenth-century America thanks to Currier & Ives, whose lithographs of Tait's paintings helped popularize the Adirondacks as a sportsman's paradise.
The images Tait created depict with great accuracy the details of life in the woods and on the waters of the Adirondacks. The clothing and equipment of Tait's hunters reveal much about mid-nineteenth-century technology and culture, and in that sense, his paintings also serve as historical documents.
The Adirondack Museum's exhibition, "The Adirondack World of A. F. Tait," consists of 38 works of art-prints and paintings-including a dozen loaned works. The exhibition assembles the best of Tait's Adirondack work on the artist's signature subject: hunting and fishing in the Adirondack wilderness.
-text and images courtesy of the Adirondack Museum
"American Hunting Scenes: A Good Chance,"
"Still Hunting on the First Snow: A Second
Shot," 1855 Oil on canvas
"An Anxious Moment: A Three Pounder
Sure," 1874 Lithograph
Photo: A.F. Tait